I have been a fan of We Are Scientists since I was only 14 years old back in ’05 when With Love And Squalor came out. So you can imagine that it was surreal for me to have the chance to interview the bands frontman, Keith Murray. Not only was he as funny as people say he is, he was also incredibly kind and easy to talk to. I’m a pretty shy guy, but I was able to talk to Keith very easily. This was my first phone interview for my blog (all past ones have been via e-mail or a chat) but overall I think it went pretty well. It’s more of a conversational interview, which I thought gave it extra life. Keith spoke to me about his new album Barbara, and what went into the album.
Check out how it all went down after the jump (it’s too long for the front page). Hope you like it:
Will: Hey Keith
Keith: Hey, how are you doing man?
W: Not bad. How are you?
K: Iâ€™m alright man!
W: So your back in New York City right now right?
K: Actually Iâ€™m in upstate New York! Iâ€™m visiting some friends who moved up to Kingston.
W: Awesome. Well lets get this thing started! Itâ€™s really cool chatting with you. I saw you guys open up for Arctic Monkeys at Roseland in June 2006, and even as the obsessed Arctic Monkeys fan, I gotta say that you guys stole the show that night. Do you remember much from the show?
Keith: Haha well I think the booze before and after help deplete the memory (laughs)â€¦No, I definitely do remember that show. I think that was the 3rd time that Matt and Alex played â€œThe Scene Is Deadâ€ with us. It was a lot of fun.
W: So whats a typical day like as a member of We Are Scientists. A lot of chilling and lounging around?
K: Uhhh, no I would say unfortunately there isn’t too muchâ€¦well I guess it depends on when they day is. Like these days Iâ€™ve been doing press pretty much all the time. Chris and I were just in Europe for 2 weeks doing promotion for the record, which comes out in about a month. These days it has been mainly just promoting the record.
W: Yeah man you gotta promote. Itâ€™s hard these days with leaks and the internet.
Keith: Yeah itâ€™s true. I believe our record is already out â€œtechnicallyâ€, I guessâ€¦even though it hasnâ€™t been released.
W: Yeah, thatâ€™s one thing I certainly wanted to talk to you about. How do you feel about your record leaking?
K: You know, I feel like at this point even complaining about it seems naive. It definitely is incredibly annoying to have the release of your record totally out of your control. If torrent sites were better looking websites, it would be less painful! They are pretty much like this sewage station within the internet. Itâ€™s sort of like walking down the street and seeing your record being sold at a burger king.
W: Yeah it really does suck, but its unfortunately a part of the process of a records release. But you will always still have fans who buy your albums and come out to shows.
Keith: Yeah obviously if torrent sites were the end of the world, then there would be nobody left to make albums.
W: So have you downloaded anything yourself recently?
K: Iâ€™m more so big on scowling blogs and grabbing some mp3â€™s. That definitely is part of the first thing I do every day is see what people are writing about and posting. I definitely am a fan of giving people mp3â€™s to post. I do feel like that is helpful. But I pretty much never actually download full albums.
W: So tell me about a little bit about Barbara.
K: Ideally before we were recording we wanted it to be 10 songs, ideally long than 3 Â½ minutes, it turned out that some went over 3 Â½. They are happily balanced by the song or two that are under 2 Â½. Basically we wanted the songs to be short and sweet.
W: Awesome. Now would you say the album is more like With Love And Squalor or Brain Thrust Mastery? Or somewhere in between both?
Keith: I feel that the songwriting itself was more like Brain Thrust Mastery, while the arrangement is more like With Love And Squalor. On Brain Thrust Mastery, we sort of missed the three man live show. There is just more energy with three guys just trying to make as much noise as humanly possible. So we tried to write a record that would let us do that again. Like, there was no way for us to play some of the songs on Brain Thrust Mastery as a three piece. So in that sense, it sort of harkens to With Love And Squalor. I feel like the songwriting really matured.
Will: So what was the songwriting process like Barbara?
Keith: We spent about 4 months in NY after we finished touring for Brain Thrust Mastery. I was hanging out here not really doing very much at all. So after 4 months, I started panicking slightly, realizing it was really time to get to work. I had some friends who lived down in Athens, Georgia and they were recording a record over the summer so I thought it could be fun to go down during the day while they were recording, then I would make my record at night. Then weâ€™d convene and share our daily war stories about making a record. The process was me waking up and taking a stroll around my house making breakfast, and sitting down with a bass, screwing around for 8 hours and hopefully having something out of it. My goal for the summer was to try and write a song a day, and by the end of every week have four songs that were good enough to send to Chris.
Even though I rented the place for three months, I ended up only being there for about 6 weeks total because we ended up doing some demoing in the middle of summer in New York. The whole record was written in about six weeks. I sent Chris something like 18-19 songs to sort through.
Will: Awesome. I am always curious as to what happens to those songs that get left off the album that arenâ€™t added as b-sides or album bonuses. Do they just sit on your desktop?
Keith: Yeah they just languish home on our hard drives.
Will: Maybe a future release of We Are Scientists songs from the vault?
Keith: I hope notâ€¦I think the idea is to choose the best songs and forgot about the other ones and try to writer better songs for the next one. For the most part songs that you havenâ€™t heard should ideally remain shrouded for the rest of our lives at least.
W: Does living in NYC have a strong influence of your songwriting? Or does it come from touring?
K: We never really write on tour, but this record was almost totally written in Athens, Georgia. I moved down there last summer and just rented a house for three months and wrote stuff there. You know, living in New York is pretty inspiring. But none of the record is from New York.
W: That sorta of ties into my next question: You guys certainly have a strong following here, but you would probably agree that you are more popular in the United Kingdom?
K: Right. I mean I feel like it would be pretty ungracious to be annoyed that we are incredibly successful away from home. Iâ€™m just thankful people like us wherever they happen to like us.
W: Kings Of Leon had the same situation, and look at them now!
K: Thatâ€™s very true!
W: So as you mentioned, you want to try to keep things as a three piece. You guys recently added Andy Burrows, formerly of Razorlight as your drummer. Is he an official member now?
Ketih: Right. Well, we consider him an official member for this record, but he has his own solo record that is coming out in July. So unfortunately he will have to devote a significant amount of time promoting that record. We have however spoken to him about making the next record as well, so in that sense he is a long term member of We Are Scientists. So the future does involve Andy Burrows.
Will: Did he record Barbara with you guys?
Keith: Yeah all the songs on Barbara were written and recorded with him. All three of us wanted to feel like a band while making this record, and he was certainly one third of that band.
Will: So from June to August you guys are doing a tour with some pretty major festivals in Europe. Whats your take on playing festivals?
Keith: I guess you could say we prefer playing our own shows, but it is fun to enter a different way of touring. Itâ€™s nice that festival touring is in such a compact amount of time. The cool thing about playing festivals is that you get to play for people who arenâ€™t necessarily there to see you, but they showed up because they may be in the mood to see a bunch of different bands. The ability to convert people who may not already be a fan of a band are there, so that makes it fun.
Will: So what are your plans after the tour?
Keith: I think the plan is to do an American tour in July, and maybe even in September after festivals, but we are still finishing up planning the July tour.
Will: I just got two quick fun questions to ask you. First, what albums/artists from this year have you been digging?
Keith: Iâ€™m really into a band that donâ€™t have a record out yet, but they do have a myspace page. They are called Rewards, and they are from Brooklyn. Itâ€™s the songwriting guy from Chairlift. Theyâ€™re pretty great. I think they only played like four shows total ever.
W: What’s your favorite beer?
Keith: Hmm, favorite beer. Well, Iâ€™ve really been into Chimay, its a Belgian beer. Itâ€™s got a pretty high alcohol content!
A big thank you to Keith for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this with me. I had a blast. We Are Scientists new album Barbara is set to come out on June 15th. Make sure you pick up a copy.
Here is the music video for “Nice Guys”, a song from Barbara: